Hokie Hoops and the Polls

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When we think about Virginia Tech football, we are used to top 10 rankings
and the hype that comes with them. In fact, the football program has reached a
point where any ranking out of the top 15 seems a bit low. But the Virginia Tech
men’s basketball team has been ranked in the AP Poll for just one season since
the last time Halley’s Comet was spotted from Earth, and the Hokies have
rarely appeared in the AP Poll in the last six decades.

Raise your hand if you remember the last time the Virginia Tech men’s
basketball team was ranked in the top 25? Most people remember the 1995-96
season, when the Hokies climbed as high as #8 in the AP poll before eventually
falling to eventual national champion Kentucky in the 2nd round of the NCAA
tournament.

But before Ace Custis and Company, when was the last time Virginia Tech was
ranked in the college basketball AP Poll? Try the second week of February … in
1986. How old were you then? I was slightly over three years old, running around
in my basement zapping ghosts with my Proton Pack, Bill Murray style. With the
exception of the 1995-96 season, the Hokies have been absent from the polls for
two decades. Twenty years!

Of course, VT has never exactly been a regular at the top of the NCAA
basketball charts. Since 1949, Virginia Tech has spent just 44 weeks in the AP
Poll, an average of less than one week per season. The majority of those weeks
came during the 1995-96 season (18 weeks ranked) and the 1985-86 season (10
weeks ranked). So in all the rest of Virginia Tech’s seasons since 1949, the
Hokies have spent just 16 weeks in the AP Poll.

Virginia Tech first broke into the AP Poll in January of 1960. The Hokies
rose to #17 in one poll that month, but that would be the only week they would
be ranked all season. They would not be ranked again until 1972-73 season, when
they spent a grand total of two weeks in the poll.

The high-water mark of Virginia Tech basketball is arguably the
early-to-mid-1980s, when Dell Curry headlined a very talented team. So how much
time did the Hokies spend in the polls during this heyday? In 1981-82 (the year
before Curry arrived at Tech), they were ranked for one week. In 1982-83, they
were again ranked for one week. Fast forward to 1984-85, and VT shows up in six
different polls. Add the 10 weeks in the rankings from the 1985-86 season, and
Virginia Tech spent a grand total of 18 weeks in the AP Poll during the 1980s.

Of course, you also have to remember that before 1989-90, the AP only ranked
20 teams rather than 25. The Hokies generally creeped around in the “others
receiving votes” category in the 80s, and if they had ranked 25 teams at the
time, VT would probably have been ranked a lot more, particularly during the
1984-85 season.

Let’s take a further look at the numbers. Virginia Tech has been ranked in
the AP Poll for parts of eight different seasons. Only once – once
in school history have the Hokies finished the season ranked in the AP Poll. The
1995-96 team finished the season at #22 in the nation, but even that finish is
somewhat disappointing considering they rose as high as #8 in the rankings
during the regular season. And by the way, that #8 ranking is the highest a Tech
basketball team has ever been ranked.

Now let’s compare the Hokies to the most tradition rich league in the
country—the ACC.

Every team in the ACC, with the lone exception of Miami, has been ranked more
times than Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes have been ranked just 34 weeks in
school history. Of course, you also have to consider that Miami didn’t even
field a basketball team from 1971-1985. Former VT head coach Bill Foster, along
with Seth Greenberg as an assistant, revived the program in the late 1980s.

Besides Virginia Tech and Miami, only three other ACC teams have been ranked
fewer than 100 weeks. Heading into the 2005-06 season – the data we are
working with comes from the 2005-06 ACC basketball media guide – BC, FSU and
Clemson had all been ranked fewer than 100 weeks. Every other program in the ACC
has finished the season ranked on at least three different occasions.

Virginia Tech has been ranked in the top 10 on two different occasions, both
during the 1995-96 season. That stat also ranks last in the ACC. Miami has been
in the top 10 on seven different occasions, while the next-lowest team in the
ACC, Florida State, has found themselves in the top 10 on 22 occasions.

Here is a detailed look at the ACC in the AP Poll.

ACC
Associated Press Men’s Basketball Rankings Summary (1949-2005)

Rank

BC

CU

DU

FS

GT

MD

UM

NC

ST

VA

VT

WF
#1 96 1 81 13 12 2
#2 1 56 3 2 23 70 24 6 12
#3 1 1 61 7 18 66 10 13 7
#4 1 23 4 23 77 15 7 10
#5 2 4 33 7 28 50 14 8 11
#6 3 1 47 1 17 16 46 17 5 11
#7 3 2 30 3 5 17 38 11 9 8
#8 3 2 39 2 8 19 1 40 21 8 1 9
#9 3 26 4 7 14 2 38 18 4 12
#10 7 7 33 9 9 10 4 26 16 2 1 13
#11 5 2 13 10 4 18 4 29 9 9 3 14
#12 3 8 11 9 7 13 1 21 15 5 1 15
#13 2 5 13 4 13 12 1 27 13 14 1 11
#14 2 6 11 9 16 17 1 16 9 6 1 13
#15 5 1 11 3 8 9 4 10 17 11 5 7
#16 3 10 10 6 10 7 1 15 15 5 4 9
#17 4 8 11 7 10 16 1 11 19 4 4 9
#18 3 6 7 8 18 9 4 15 8 4 14
#19 2 5 8 4 6 15 8 17 9 5 18
#20 9 4 5 3 8 14 1 9 12 5 8 9
#21 6 3 1 3 5 3 1 2 2 1 4
#22 4 2 1 8 9 2 3 5 5 5
#23 6 1 4 7 6 3 1 5 9
#24 2 4 6 9 2 1 3 5 6
#25 7 2 1 5 4 3 2 3 8 6
Totals 86 85 545 91 196 331 34 690 308 175 44 244

Virginia Tech has the longest streak of being unranked in the AP Poll of any
team in the ACC. The last time the Hokies found themselves ranked came on the
March 11, 1996 poll. The closest team to VT is Florida State, which was ranked
for the last time on January 18, 1998. Clemson has not been ranked since January
11, 1999. Every other team in the conference has been ranked at some point since
2002. Throw out Miami, and every other team in the ACC has been ranked at some
point since 2004.

So how do the Hokies stack up to some other programs from across the country?
Take a look at the next table.

Ranking
Comparison of VT and Other Random Programs
School Weeks
Ranked
Weeks in
Top 10
Times in
Final Poll
Highest
Rank

Virginia Tech
44 2 1 8

Tulsa
81 12 5 6

Long Beach State
60 43 6 1

Arizona State
73 34 6 3

Auburn
90 47 5 2

BYU
89 23 7 3

Davidson
61 54 5 2

Iowa State
85 29 5 3

Umass
78 47 5 1

New Mexico State
64 20 5 3

West Virginia
114 61 10 1

Nebraska
29 4 2 8

Ole Miss
32 1 2 10

Colorado
31 10 8 6

Florida
142 72 7 1

Texas
128 28 7 2

Wisconsin
103 6 6 6

Notre Dame
267 142 19 1

The list of schools above includes small conference teams, teams that are known
for football but do little in basketball (similar to VT) and teams that have
enjoyed success on the gridiron and hardwood.

It’s pretty amazing that almost every school on that list has been ranked
for more weeks than the Hokies. The only schools that have not are
football-centric schools like Virginia Tech. Also, every school on the list,
except Ole Miss, has spent more weeks in the top 10 than Virginia Tech. And the
Hokies have been ranked in the final poll of the season just once since 1949, a
lower number than any other school on the chart.

Virginia Tech returns a lot of experienced players for the 2006-07 season,
and they have a chance to be pretty good. If by chance they creep into the AP
Poll, cherish it, because you will be witnessing history.

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